If there is any solace the Los Angeles Rams can use heading into their Week 2 matchup against a familiar NFC West rival, it is the fact that they beat the Seattle Seahawks twice in 2015.
That will need to be Los Angeles head coach Jeff Fisher's rallying cry all week after his squad laid an egg on national television this past Monday night. The "new" Rams hope to have a better showing as they kick off their return to Los Angeles and host the 1-0 Seahawks at 4:05 p.m. ET Sunday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Seahawks enter this contest having barely escaped with a victory over the Miami Dolphins.
Both teams know there is a lot at stake in this early-season matchup. The Rams have already lost a division game to the San Francisco 49ers and cannot afford to be 0-2 in the NFC West to start the season. The Seahawks struggled to a 12-10 win in Week 1 and know the Rams have their number in recent history.
"We're familiar with them, they're familiar with us; we respect them, they respect us. I love watching them play -- the Seahawks -- because they play hard, (Seattle head coach) Pete (Carroll) does a great job and fortunately, we've had some success against them," said Fisher about this rivalry.
The health of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is a major topic leading up to this game. Wilson's ankle was stepped on in the third quarter of the Miami game, limiting his ability to move and escape the pocket. The unique aspect of Wilson's game is the ability to extend drives and plays with his feet and speed. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell must be creative and protective of Wilson when installing the game plan for the Rams.
Wilson is expected to play. Remember, this is a player who has never missed an important snap in his career. Carroll addressed this to the media.
"He's (Wilson) pretty good. He's not in a boot. He's walking around and he's practicing on Wednesday. He's planning on playing and we'll see how it goes," Carroll said.
Wilson is adamant about playing against a team he lost to twice last season.
With even a slightly hobbled Wilson, the onus falls on running backs Christine Michael and Thomas Rawls to establish a running attack. Against a solid Miami defensive front, the offensive line struggled to gain momentum and consistency. Michael and Rawls rushed for a combined 98 yards but failed to cross the goal line. That will not work against the formidable defensive front of the Rams.
Los Angeles defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will build his game plan around stopping the Seahawks' rushing attack and forcing the gimpy Wilson out of the pocket. Williams can use middle linebacker Alec Olgetree on run stunts, which will allow Pro Bowl defensive tackle Aaron Donald to be single-blocked by either guard J'Marcus Webb or Mark Glowinski. That is a matchup the Rams should win.
Donald is one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL. The front five of the Seahawks has struggled to block him in his four games played against them. In those four career games against Seattle, Donald has amassed four sacks and 24 total tackles. That being said, Donald and the Rams' defense had zero sacks versus the 49ers.
Center Justin Britt was moved to center and a major reason was for matchups opposite Donald. Britt is intelligent, has quick hands and good lateral quickness. The 49ers were able to frustrate Donald, who did not play particularly well and was ejected for putting his hands on an official. The Rams as a team had 10 total penalties for 102 yards. If Donald can keep his composure and play like last season, this could be an exciting matchup to watch.
Los Angeles' offense was a train wreck on Monday Night Football. Former Rams great Eric Dickerson called it "an embarrassment." The play of quarterback Case Keenum had Fisher thinking about benching him, but the head coach allowed him to finish the game.
Fisher has acknowledged that Keenum is on a short leash, though, he enters the Sunday's game as the starter. No matter who lines up at center for the Rams, the offensive line needs to play much better than the unit did against the 49ers.
Running back Todd Gurley was held in check in Week 1 and will be looking to better his numbers from his only game against the Seahawks in 2015. Gurley rushed for 83 yards and scored one touchdown in the December showdown in Seattle.
With the lack of a passing attack, the Seahawks' defensive game plan will be to stack the tackle box with run defenders and make Keenum beat Seattle's defensive backs with passes downfield. Safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman would welcome that challenge.